what are you running from?

I ran twice today. (Twice: as in the typical accepted English usage, to mean “two times.”) This is not normal behavior for most humans who are not sinewy cross-country athletes.

from the archives. no tights in august.

from the archives. no tights in august.

I’ve been pretty solidly back on the running wagon since my birthday — almost 8 weeks — partially because it’s an easy and rewarding habit to stick with once I get started, and also because I’ve told myself I want to be in the best shape of my life, now that I’m th-th-thirty. An admirable, if slightly absurd, goal. I mean, I was 18 once, people. I get it.

I’m antsy to take on another long race. It’s been almost 4 years since I ran the marathon in Chicago. (The Bass Pro half is Nov. 3. I’m thinking about doing it, but don’t tell anybody… In case I change my mind…) It’d be fun to try to beat my best time (2 hours 18 minutes 23 seconds), from my first half marathon, when I was 24.

I was 24 once, people.

So I ran twice today. Whether or not this habit leads to record-busting, new-decade feats of glory, today it just felt good.

With that “twice in one day” confession, there’s a voice in my head that asks, “yeah, well, what are you running from then?” (That’s probably not normal behavior for most humans, either…) But it’s a big reason why I run: to get away from the Negative Norma in my head (Nancy is on vacation, you see). The doubtful, self-critical, often quite loud voice.

I run to get away from that. 

And I run toward its opposite: Runner’s High. Which most definitely is a real thing. I felt it when I first started running for real in 2007. A surprising rush of happy, productive, creative energy. I felt it during my marathon in 2009. A quiet, peaceful connection to my place in the world and all living things.

It sounds like bullshit! I know! But it’s real. 

I felt it again tonight, walking back to my house. It’s quiet and dark on the streets of Rountree. Bright windows glow behind pretty porches. The chatter of night bugs drones below my iPod — I’m in a Girl Talk mood these days. Streetlights make the leaves sparkle. And I am all alone.

If you haven’t ever walked down the middle of a (non-busy, of course) street at night, you’ve got to do it sometime. At least once. Just feel yourself being there. Being anywhere is pretty neat, when you stop to think seriously about it. (Runner’s High helps you think seriously about things like that…things like your place in the world and how nice it is to be alive. Which, I know. Sounds like bullshit.) But it’s easier to appreciate just being, in the dark, under the stars, when all the voices are turned off.

Bonus: I’ve found that windmill arms can enhance the feelings of wellbeing, if you feel so inclined.

Declaration of Independence

(Some clichés are too good to resist…It’s a holiday. Let me indulge.)

We’ve started a new Blog Challenge (again), and this one seems more manageable. Each week, one of us will ask a new question. This week Whitney inquired:

What did you accomplish in the last year?

I actually want to focus on something I was not so great at, which I would like to improve in the coming year. (Which is year #29. Let’s not talk about it…)
Yes, I am being Michael Scott in a job interview:
What are your strengths? / Lemme tell you about my weaknesses… 

I did accomplish some pretty baller things last year (birthday-to-birthday):

Participated in a surprise group dance number at a friend’s wedding reception (life list goal accomplished).

Started learning accordion, which is as awesome as it sounds.

Got runner-up in a national writing contest. (A one-liner writing contest. We’re starting small… but I got a free book! And my name on a website!)

Fit into pants I wore in high school (sweet red plaid Abercrombie situation circa 2001. For sure).

Went to Memphis to see my best friend from college marry the boy I introduced her to. (A long time ago. They get all the credit for the nuptials.) Still, “happiest day” doesn’t begin to describe.

Also saw Graceland. TCB.

Started writing for a TV show. Jokes that I wrote have gotten laughs on TV! For real, you guys! (The Mystery Hour, Saturdays @ 11 on KOZL. Check it, local peeps!)

Had a great relationship, lost a great relationship.

And now here we are. That catches you up to Sunday. And it’s that final one that gets me thinking about next year. As does the current message on my kitchen door chalkboard:

In case my cursive is bothersome, or the image doesn’t show up, it’s this:

You yourself, as much as anyone in the universe,
deserve your love and affection. –Buddha

(And the subtitle scrawled above, by Buddha’s bitter and less-famous cousin: AND NOBODY ELSE WANTS IT ANYWAY. har har.)

This. THIS. If I can internalize and put into practice one thing this birthday year…I think this mantra could save me a world of trouble. Perfectionism, conflict, jealousy, procrastination, burn-out, blow-ups, etc…. So many problems in my life get worse when I forget to take care of myself first. (That’s true for everybody, I think. Women in particular.)

There’s rarely just one thing (or one person) to blame when a relationship stops working, but I know one thing for sure: It’s in my disposition to put all my happiness eggs in a significant other’s basket. And that works for a while, because he’s happy that I’m making him happy, and I’m happy to be making him happy. But then, after a while, I don’t have enough happiness eggs left for myself. And then he wonders why I’m too sad to make omelets. And so he leaves.

(Oversimplified egg analogy…but not terribly inaccurate. There’s also some sort of “chicken” comparison in there, but I won’t make it.)

So that’s my goal for year 29: Take better care of my eggs. (or something)

Meaning, love myself first. Buddha knew it. Oprah knows it. Momma’s going to learn it. Then, omelets for everybody!

Building a better SJ

Trying to pull myself away…caught in a pattern and I can’t escape…

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Sometimes I think I must be the least type-A person I know.

But that isn’t quite right: I love accomplishing things. I love being good at what I do. I love getting caught up in rewarding tasks. I can multitask like a mu’a fu’a. (I have, on occasion, been described as “tightly wound”…) But along the way, I’m also super-comfortable going with the flow, changing things up, constantly exploring new ideas.
(Oooh look! There’s one now!!, etc.)

You can understand how I often end up, then, with many To-Do lists—not so many Ta-Das. Or, more accurately, a good number of Ta-Das that are hard-fought victories in the battle against procrastination + perfectionism anxiety.
(Wanna hang out sometime? I’m tons of fun when a deadline’s approaching…)

Lucky for me, everybody’s in the spirit o’ resolutions right now, and there are lots of lovely resources on the ol’ web to help a girl like me get her self correct. (I would love so much to spend 2012 getting myself correct…) Imagine how much more I could do (and do well) if I just got my shit a little bit more together, you guys!

These two articles in particular are helping me guide myself to the land of Ta-Da:

“A Master Plan For Taking Back Control of Your Life” (right?)

from “The 99%” (nothing to do with Wall Street, ps.)

“10 Tips to Get Through Your Holiday Hangover”

from “Talent Zoo” (nothing to do with animals, ps.)

[Both are neato websites for creative-professional types. Check ’em.]

From #1, I especially like the idea of working in “sprints,” doing just one thing at a time. Can you imagine the freedom to allow yourself 90 minutes of uninterrupted time for each task on your list? Glorious, glorious fantasy!!

From #2, I love the idea of choosing an “intention” for the year to help you lean into change—vs. resolutions, which often call for light-switch-drastic adjustments. This morning, I thought I just might take my intention from one Mr. Alex Hitchens:

“Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”

Oh, sure, I might’ve made fun of that quote from HITCH once upon a time, but today I choose to let it inspire me.

Like this: The documentary I AM (from the guy who brought us Ace Ventura. No, really.) is well worth your rental. Oprah—from whom all blessings flow—introduced me to this gem last year. Tom Shadyac, the director, has this existential crisis when he discovers that becoming a millionaire doesn’t fulfill him. He starts to look around at the world and wonders what’s gone wrong. Why are we so connected but disconnected at the same time? He goes to some of the best minds we’ve got (scientists, philosophers, writers, Archbishop McDreamy Desmond Tutu…) trying to figure out what’s up with humanity.

The title I AM can be the answer to one of two questions:

#1 What’s wrong with the world?
#2 What’s right about the world?

It seems trite, I know, but maybe the answer really is that simple. What if I follow my intention in 2012, reminding myself to wonder, “What Would Hitch Do?”…so that my “I am” is the answer to #2. On purpose.

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In the spirit of Living Your Best Life as Oprah would do…I’m excited to introduce a new Blog Challenge!!

**Fireworks**Champagne**Confetti**Statuettes**

 “And the Envelope Please…”

Inspired by awards season (which we’re counting as the six weeks between Sunday’s Golden Globes and the Oscars on February 26), the gang is back to blog about “Best of” experiences from our lives (and naturally some movies, too). The goal is 2 posts each week from each of us, so settle in for some red-carpet-worthy writing. Some glamour. Maybe a montage…